mutterings

Been a while since I last said much…it’s April and it feels like I haven’t really stopped in ages. But I sputter on. Work remains exhausting but fun though I’m spending a day/week in systems which is nice but means I’m cramming the rest of my job into 4 days/week which is at times hectic, at times ok. I haven’t been getting to the fun stuff as much as I’d like.

I think that’s about to change as I’ve had the terms of reference approved to create a working  group focusing on the collection of social media…this is in addition to my responsibilities for web harvesting. We have access to some nice tools, which other amazing people got up and running and I hope to build on their work. I am anticipating good things and looking forward to sharing the development with others.

I feel a little behind in my media consumption – perhaps always behind though that’s not I think, unhealthy. I  haven’t finished season 2 of Jessica Jones though only a couple of episodes remain. I was getting close then Far Cry 5 was released so that sucked up a little time. And God of War was released last week so I’ve put Far Cry aside for a while to focus on the new adventures with Kratos. To be fair, God of War is the one I’ve been waiting a long while for, while the Far Cry releases are fun, there is something about the mix of storytelling, puzzles, and violence that makes God of War rather compelling.

I am at least, with my partner, halfway through Altered Carbon, which is proving to have some good ideas and emerging as decent science fiction…there’s a few times I’ve wondered whether this would have been a better direction to pursue with the second Bladerunner flick, though I did like it to a point. This year is the 40th anniversary of Blakes 7 and we are watching from the start as I bought the 4 seasons on DVD some years ago. It remains a pet peeve that there is no apostrophe in the screened title, nor of course on the DVDs, though everyone tends to put one in. One day, perhaps we’ll get to the boxed set of The Avengers (the older English version of course).

bits and whiskies

Sat down at the computer today for the first time in a while and installed docker. I have it installed on most of my machines and got round to it on the vivomini today. Was a simple matter to run:

sudo apt install docker.io

enter my password and off it went. Docker containers include everything you’re likely to need to run a particular batch of software. Installing software is rarely simple and may rely on the presence of other packages which leads into a vicious circle of finding all the dependencies and installing them. In this case, I wanted to try the new-ish docker container for the Archives Unleashed Toolkit which, in earlier days and been a little challenging in a on docker environment. Whereas this version was dead simple via docker on a linux command line:

Step 1 sudo docker pull archivesunleashed/docker-aut
Step 2 sudo docker run --rm -it archivesunleashed/docker-aut

Both steps took a while but I think it was around 15-20 minutes altogether on my ADSL2 house wifi (my NBN option is HFC and that’s been delayed several months). When the second step finished I was greeted with the opening screen for the spark shell and ready to work. Very nice and will have more of a play later.

For now, I’m currently downloading Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds and rather looking forward to revisiting my favourite game of 2017, and possibly even my favourite game since Skyrim. Actually, I’m not sure on the latter and I haven’t actually stopped playing Skyrim. I have been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed: Origins over the last couple of months and it feels like there’s still so much to explore. Some of it is a bit repetitive yet it’s wonderful exploring such a well realised version of Egypt, in the time of Cleopatra, and its surrounds. With that said, I’m at the point where I’m going to ease back and pop into it occasionally rather than have it as my primary game.

Then there was whisky. All the bottles I had opened in early November are now finished. Back then I had 9 bottles altogether with 5 open, now  9 bottles and 4 open. Actually I have an additional 7 bottles but they’re each 50ml and combined are equivalent to a single bottle. My partner bought me a box of 4 peated malts for christmas, and I picked up a taster pack of 3 Loch Lomond whiskies. Whiskies opened include:

  • Hellyers Road 10 year old (46.2%) – a nice, soft dram from Tasmania. Usually retails around $90 and I think I’m on my second bottle.
  • Ben Nevis 18 year old (single cask, 54.7%) – strong but delish, loving this one and on to the second bottle. This was $240 and is part of a fund raiser for a new distillery in Corowa, NSW.
  • BenRiach Peated Cask Strength Single Malt (56%) – also strong and also delish. This was $150 and I have a suspicion that BenRiach is turning out to be one of my favourite distilleries after Highland Park and Overeem. I have also enjoyed their 17 year old PX cask.
  • Glenmorangie: The Duthac (43%) – more yum. This was a christmas present and was released for travel retail and is primarily available at duty free places at airports, Singapore in this instance. Part finished in Pedro Ximinez casks. Sherry casks are my preferred and the Pedro Ximinez (PX) seems to raise that a notch or two.

Speaking of Pedro, I rather like sherry straight too. I used to prefer ports and muscats, and even had a port barrel maturing at one stage. I suspect if I ever do another barrel it will be for sherry. Of sherries, the Pedro Ximinez or PX (though it seems irreverent to shorten it such) is turning out to be my favourite. I have been trying out various releases from cheap to expensive, the most expensive being around $55 for 350ml! My favourite, while a little pricey, seems to be the Cardenal Cisneros at $56/750ml, though cheap compared to whisky.

rabbit holes of adventure

Dinner table conversation tonight ended up chatting about Mystery House, that my partner played occasionally when she was younger. Mystery House is known as the first graphical adventure game. That of course led the conversation into interactive fiction, referencing the top shelf of my bookcase which contains pretty much all of Infocom‘s text adventures. I remember Zork II was my first text adventure and fiendish it was. I relied on adventure columns in computer game magazines of the time for clues on how to solve difficult puzzles including the horrible baseball diamond puzzle, also known as the Oddly Angled Room.

In those days, I couldn’t google answers and would spend months stuck on a problem. Sometimes that could be a good thing but mostly it was bloody frustrating. While there was a certain sense of achievement in solving puzzles, it meant I couldn’t advance the story. Solving puzzles was essential to accessing further parts of the game. These days I think I prefer story telling and plot development though solving puzzles is nice too. Happily most games provide decent hint mechanisms and if I get desperate I can google for answers.

Much to the shock of my partner, I commented that I usually have my text adventure collection stored on all my active machines as they are part of my central core of files that migrate across my various computing environments. This sounds substantial until you realise that text adventures, having little graphics and don’t take up a lot of space. My entire interactive fiction archive is a little over 100MB, of which the complete works of infocom account for 95%. Come to think of it, they were the only ones I was able to buy as a box set later, the Lost Treasures of Infocom, and load in a system independent format.

interactive fiction games

The other key adventure game company of the time was Level 9. Infocom were American based, while Level 9 were from the UK and I had several of their games. Regrettably, while I still have the boxes, I no longer have the equipment to read the discs. Later on, graphic adventures developed further with Magnetic Scrolls commencing with their first game, the fantastic The Pawn. I have several titles of their titles on my shelf too. Methinks I need to investigate further as to whether I can get these on my current machines. Come to think of it, I’ve barely mentioned Sierra Online who were responsible for Mystery House and later developed the King’s Quest and SpaceQuest series. Oh, and then there was Ultima…yet another rabbit hole…

techie librarian; meatier than a seahorse

 

Tag lines…whatever do you use for your tagline: the subheading of your identity, the punchline by which people establish a connection. Mostly I pay them lip service, smiling occasionally at a clever one. My own tend to refer to variations of: techie, librarian and eclectic, sometimes all 3 at once.

In a rather wayward conversation, spinning down a rabbit hole of curiousity, as things are wont to do when Matt Finch is involved, a recent conversation turned from roasting penguins to eating seahorses.

I participated in a workshop as part of NLS8 and the first activity was for everyone to sketch a scene, in 90 seconds, on a piece of A4 using at least one of three figures on a screen: 2 humans (or human-like) and a penguin. As is my wont, I immediately gave into the dark side and sketched the two humans roasting the penguin. The second half of the activity was for each table to construct a cohesive story using those scenes as panel. They were two quick activities that worked really well as an icebreaker and got you thinking at how easy it was to come up with ideas under pressure.

The seahorses came later…or rather many years earlier:

to which I responded with my “meatier than seahorse” remark and commented elsewhere that while I have never eaten penguin, I have actually eaten seahorse.

Many years ago, 2003 I think (really must upload those photos to flickr), I spent a few weeks on an Intrepid trip in China with friends. We started in Beijing and went to the Beijing night markets, a place where you can eat just about anything including silk worms and even scorpions on a stick. Scorpions were a wee a but scary but we figured had to be ok as noone was dropping dead. As far as we can figure, they’re bred without their stinger.

While trying to order something else, there was a language issue, and I ended up with seahorse on a stick. I think the scorpions were about 20 cents for five whereas the seahorse was a few Oz dollars for one. Our tour guide tried to talk our way out of it but the shopowner insisted. So I paid for it and ate it. There wasn’t much flavour as it was primarily shell with perhaps a tiny morsel of meat.

Matt suggested “meatier than a seahorse” as a bio and it immediately rang the right sort of bells, both physically and metaphorically. I am now using it for all my taglines :-)

my gaming history

I came across this post from Kotaku about trying to collect and preserve the context of the world of computer games ie getting the external materials, promotions, articles and so forth which provide a real world background to the development of the game itself.

This sort of ties into one of my ongoing concerns in game preservation, how do I convey the sense of “atari thumb”?  As this link shows, the Atari joystick was fairly basic. I spent so many hours using that controller as a teenager, thumb on the red button, mashing it as hard as I could. Eventually, you’d have to stop playing as your thumb got too sore to continue hence “atari thumb”.

There’s plenty of options around for game emulation including the almighty Internet Archive’s Game Arcade and MAME has just had its 20th birthday. However it’s one thing to be able to play the old games, it’s another thing entirely to talk about and understand the culture of gaming when the original systems existed. It’s nice to see for example, that the internet archive is maintaining an archive of old computer magazines including one of my favourites from the 80s, the UK Computer + Video Games. I bought this magazine every month, usually for one column, particular, the Adventurer’s Helpline.

The Adventurer pages were full of hints and reviews text adventures including the US Infocom, and the English Level 9. I have vague recollections of reader letters and responses too so it felt like there was an international community. There were also Oz based magazines including the Australian Commodore Review which morphed into the Australian Commodore & Amiga Review and included a dedicated text adventure section called “Adventurer’s Realm“. Capturing that external world of gaming is a tricky beast. Many years ago, I discarded most of my original copies of those magazines though did cut out all the adventure columns. I’m sorta hoping that I’ve retained that small archive somewhere in a box. On other hand, it seems to be the case that more and more of this material is being digitised and made available online.

sat nav

I’ve never owned a sat-nav. I have on occasion, used google maps on the phone. Going to a new place I may check google maps at home to get a sense of where a place is. In olden days, I’d rely on on a printed street directory, I still have one in the car. But turn by turn driving, with computer voiceover, no thanks.

When driving I like a broad sense of where I’m going and then I generally fudge a bit when in the right-ish vicinity. Sometimes in moments of desperation I will get the phone out and find out where the bloody hell I am. This approach is not particularly efficient, a little bit lazy, and a little bit stubborn.

I reflect on this occasionally when playing video games, or should I call them computer games, though both terms sound a little archaic. Grand Theft Auto for example does a fullish sat-nav thang wih a coloured line from your car to your destination that recalculates if you take a different course.

map of skyrimHowever I think the Skyrim approach works best for me. It puts a spot on the Skyrim map where I’m heading and I can see a rough idea of the terrain between it and me with a sense of where the major route may lie. That’s about it. I journey toward that point, not quite directly. Diversions occur, weird paths cross my own and beg to be followed. I head off on detours, all the while keeping in mind where I’m ultimately heading.

Travel for me, in gaming and in life, is rarely about getting from point A to point B.